Local Retiree Shows a Heart for the Homeless - People Helping People Series

Friday, September 08 at 04:00 PM
Category: People Helping People

There’s one thing people need to know about Johnette Weiss.

“She’s a very strong-willed woman,” her friend, Robert Peoples, said with a laugh. “She wants something done, she’ll get it done.”

Weiss’ strong will has served her well over her 75 years. Visually impaired most of her life, Weiss spent 40 years working as an instructor at World Services for the Blind. Now retired, she channels her energy and determination into making hygiene kits for the homeless “because everybody needs some deodorant, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, just anything to make us more presentable. It makes a person feel good about himself or herself if they're clean.”

Weiss is the 21st person to be featured in Arvest Bank’s People Helping People video series. The series is designed to celebrate individuals in the communities Arvest serves who are uniquely making a difference.

Weiss’ desire to help others was ingrained early. She grew up on a farm and remembers her mother, Ann Bartholomew, sharing extra milk, eggs and vegetables with a nearby neighbor in need. Weiss said her mother didn’t have extra money to give the neighbor, so she helped the only way she could.

“It made an impression on me as a little girl and now I want to help some, too,” she said.

That experience has shaped her approach to life over the years. "My philosophy in life is if each person can make a little bit of difference, can make life a little bit better for someone, then we’ve done something good.”

Weiss has been retired for about 10 years, and has been preparing the hygiene kits for about eight years. One of the challenges she faces when she is assembling the kits is to keep the items separated. She uses braille lables to help her with the task.

“I see the need for the homeless because just about every time you go shopping you're going to see someone that's asking for some help,” Weiss said. “I can't help every one of those people, but I can put together those hygiene kits, and I take them to the shelter that passes them out. They see those people that need that specific help, and they can use those kits to make that person's life just a little bit better.

“It makes me feel good to know I'm helping others because it just makes me feel that I'm being the kind of person I ought to be.”

Watch* Weiss tell her story of helping others. Keep an eye on our social media channels for videos highlighting the good works of dedicated citizens in the communities Arvest Bank serves.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Arkansas, Little Rock, People Helping People

Community Advisory Board Created in Saline County, Ark.

Friday, July 21 at 11:00 AM
Category: Arvest Community News
Arvest Bank has announced the creation of a Saline County Advisory Board that was formed to broaden and enhance the bank’s support of the community.
The board consists of four members who will advise, support and serve as liaisons for the bank through relationships with local businesses and the community.
“We are fortunate in Saline County to have many distinguished professionals and entrepreneurs who work to help our communities thrive on a state and national level, and who are invested in helping this area of Arkansas continue to succeed,” said Phillip Partain, community bank president for Arvest Bank in Saline County. “We’re working in collaboration with these leaders to help ensure we’re making the best decisions, and pursuing the right opportunities, for our customers and for the future success of this area.”
Advisory board members will each serve a five-year term and include:
Grayling V. Hill, president of HilArk Industries in Benton, a manufacturer of heavy equipment for the construction industry. He also is the owner of HilBilt Sales Corp. – Arkansas. 
Hill has served on the Board of Trustees for the Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA in management from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 
Hill, his wife Sharon, and their two children live in Bryant. He is a member of Family Church in Bryant.
Lamont Cornwell, Jr., executive director of the Saline County Economic Development Corporation. Cornwell was an executive in the gas utilities industry for 27 years, created a small business of his own and also served as a state representative for Saline County.
He is a charter member and former chairman of the Benton Public Utilities Commission, past chairman of the Benton Parks Commission, past president of the Benton Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Saline County Hospital Foundation and currently is involved in various state and national organizations that promote economic development in Arkansas.
Cornwell is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and a member of The Church at Rock Creek.
He and his wife, Billie, have four children and nine grandchildren. 
Mark Middleton, president of CommerceCorp International, a boutique international merchant banking firm. He is a managing partner of MidCorp Investments and principal of Middleton Inc., a diversified family holding company.
Middleton served as finance director for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and was appointed special assistant to President Clinton and deputy to the president’s chief of staff. He has worked closely with Fortune 500 companies regarding their involvement in international business. Following his government service, Middleton was involved in establishing the Clinton Presidential Library and the Clinton Birthplace Foundation.
He earned a BSBA in finance and banking from the University of Arkansas. A Rotary International Fellow, Middleton completed his post-graduate studies at the London School of Economics, then earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas, where he was a member of the Law Review.
He is a board member of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Foundation Fund and the CHI St. Vincent Foundation, and is a member of Fifty for the Future. 
Middleton and his wife, Rhea, have two daughters. They are members of St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock.

Don Rhoads, president of Fleming Electric in Bryant. 
Rhoads serves on the boards of the Arkansas chapter of the American Red Cross, Baptist Health and Arkansas Workforce, and is a member of Club 99 Rotary in Little Rock. He also is active in other industry organizations. 
Rhoads is a graduate of Arkansas State University, where he earned an associates degree in math and science. 

Tags: Community Support, Little Rock

Aaron Reddin Drives for a Better Future – People Helping People Series

Thursday, June 01 at 02:50 PM
Category: People Helping People
Aaron Reddin spends his days serving the needs of the homeless. After working for years as a director for local shelters, he learned what homeless individuals deal with on a daily basis. That inspired him to leave his job and start his own organization* to meet their immediate needs. 
“It started with just emailing all my friends and telling them to cough up the coats they had in their closet one winter and loading it down in my Toyota Yaris,” Aaron Reddin said. “Just going out and finding people that needed a hand and needed a friend. And just doing what I could from there.”
He soon realized he needed a bigger vehicle to carry all the supplies. That’s how The Van* was created. Initially, Aaron received a well-used van from a total stranger who believed in the cause. Seven days a week, The Van provides clothes and other items to those who are homeless. He has since purchased a brand new van with cash from more than 500 donors.
The work of Aaron and his team give hope to those who need assistance.
Aaron’s work has expanded and now better serves those who are not close to a shelter, and who don’t have access to quality food.
“We’re about bringing dignity with stuff. So we said hey let’s start a garden. Let’s just start a garden and see what happens.”
“Never really thought it would turn into chickens and bees and all kinds of other things.”
As the garden grows, this food provides dozens of meals every night to the people “The Van” serves. 
Aaron knows the work is hard, but it hasn’t stopped him from trying to achieve his vision.
“My end goal is to work ourselves out of business. I would love for there to be no reason for this to exist because we did it,” Reddin said. 
Watch Aaron in action.
Aaron’s story is part of Arvest Bank’s People Helping People series featuring citizens giving back to their community. 

Keep an eye on our social media channels for videos highlighting the good works of dedicated citizens in the communities Arvest Bank serves.  
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

Tags: Arkansas, Charitable Giving, Community Support, Little Rock, People Helping People

Esmeralda Ramirez Encourages Peer Community Involvement – People Helping People Series

Wednesday, May 17 at 02:10 PM
Category: People Helping People
As a 17 year old high school student, Esmeralda Ramirez keeps herself busy. Between finishing her junior year and being the student council president, she has accomplished many things in a short amount of time. But nothing compares to her biggest accomplishment. She runs the Saturday meal program at the Jackson House*, a crisis center for those in need in Hot Springs, Ark. Her efforts impact more than those in need. She’s also a role model to her peers and encourages them to see how they can make their community better. Watch Esmeralda in action.
Esmeralda’s story is part of Arvest Bank’s People Helping People series featuring citizens giving back to their community. 
Keep an eye on our social media channels for videos highlighting the good works of dedicated citizens in the communities Arvest Bank serves.  

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

Tags: Arkansas, Charitable Giving, Community Support, Little Rock, People Helping People

Q&A with Connie Bledsoe with Arkansas Foodbank for 1 Million Meals

Wednesday, April 19 at 05:40 AM
Category: Arvest Community News
We’re partnering with 72 food organizations this year as part of our seventh annual 1 Million Meals initiative to raise one million meals for the hungry in our communities. Arkansas Foodbank*, one of our food partners, has been serving people in Central and Southern Arkansas for 33 years. 
It’s a pleasure to do a Q&A with Connie Bledsoe, agency relations director at the Arkansas Foodbank, to learn more about her work. She is one of the most recognizable faces at the food bank and is their longest tenured employee at 20 years strong. She has seen the impact hunger can have all across our state while she has worked with our agency members but has never wavered as a passionate champion in the fight against it. She has played a big role in strengthening our agency members and coming up with ways to make them more efficient and stable. Because of that, the food bank is able to send out 57,000 meals a day across their 33-county service area.
What’s your involvement with Arkansas Foodbank, and how did you get started?
I had to use a food pantry once in the mid 90s. The people at the pantry treated me with dignity and respect. I felt like they were so happy to assist me and my two little girls. I worked for a local school district and was off for summer break. I decided to volunteer at the Arkansas Foodbank. I wanted to give back because of the kindness the pantry showed me. After volunteering for a couple of weeks, I was offered an office position. I prayed about it and accepted the job because I felt this was where I was supposed to be. 
My involvement now is with our partner agencies. These are the groups that receive the food that is donated and collected at our warehouse in Little Rock. Our agencies are the arms and legs for the Arkansas Foodbank. They see the need first hand in their community, at their churches, in the school, on the streets, etc. There would not be a need for the food bank if we didn't have the agencies.

What’s a compelling experience you’ve had during your time with Arkansas Foodbank?
I am so proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization that makes a difference in people’s lives every day. The best part about my job is the relationship/friendship I have built with the member agencies. They are more like family. We have shared stories, laughed and cried together. We have an annual luncheon and provide grants, to the members to purchase refrigerators, freezers, vehicles, food, pay utilities or the purchase gas to come pick up the food. I wish we could provide this to them more than annually. Most of our pantries are run by elderly volunteers. They provide to the needy out of the goodness of their hearts and feel that it is their duty to help their sister or brother in need. I can't take credit for anything. Now, after 20 years of working for the Arkansas Foodbank, I know that I am in the right seat on the bus!
How can people get involved with Arkansas Foodbank? 
Supporting the Arkansas Foodbank helps people in your community. We encourage everyone to get involved in the fight against hunger. Whether it is volunteering at the food bank or local food pantry, hosting a food drive at work or at school, or educating those around you on the serious problem of hunger in Arkansas. We are stronger when we work together. 

We’d love to have you involved in our 1 Million Meals initiative to help the Arkansas Foodbank* and our other food partners.  

Four Easy Ways to Donate:
  • Donate via Phone – Customers can make a $1 (or more) donation by calling (866) 952-9523. Funds will be drawn directly from your Arvest account.
  • Donate via Mail – Mail a check to Arvest Bank Operations, ATTN: 1MM, P.O. Box 799, Lowell, AR 72745. Include 1 Million Meals in the memo line of the check.
  • Donate in a Branch – Stop by your local Arvest Bank branch. Cash and check contributions accepted.
  • Donate Arvest Flex Rewards™ – Customers can redeem points for a 1 Million Meals donation. Log in at arvestflexrewards.com, and click on the banner for 1 Million Meals to get started!
We’ll Donate $1 Each Time You:
  • Follow us on Instagram.
  • Like or share our 1 Million Meals Facebook posts.
  • Retweet our 1 Million Meals tweets on Twitter on April 21 and May 10.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.  

Tags: 1 Million Meals, Arkansas, Charitable Giving, Community Support, Little Rock

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